In Susan Vaught’s funny and touching middle grade novel, Footer Davis Might Be Probably is Crazy, set in Bugtussle, Mississippi, main character and budding journalist Footer investigates the murder of a farmer and the disappearance of his two grandchildren in a barn fire, along with her best friend and detective-in-training, Peavine. To celebrate this book, and Peavine’s clever investigative notebooks, I asked my fellow Emu’s Debuts about their favorite detectives from literature, film and TV.
Let’s start with Peavine’s favorite detective: McCloud, from the 1970s TV series. It’s never mentioned directly in the story, but Peavine admires McCloud because “… [he’s a] polite, witty, straightforward, fairly by-the-books Marshal who ‘got his man’ through dogged determination and good, solid detective work. Peavine’s strategy is honesty and thoroughness, covering all of his bases, leaving NOTHING out–even maybe when he should. He disarms people he’s interviewing with gentle honesty and kindness. Plus, McCloud was southern, so points for that!”
Who’s Susan’s number one detective: Columbo, “the rumpled, brilliant guy everyone dismisses (as he’s totally solving the crime in the background).”
Carole Gerber likes Sherlock Holmes: “… not THE Sherlock Holmes, but the S.H. character on the TV show ‘Elementary,’ played by British actor Jonny Lee Miller. Miller’s character is incredibly observant; in every episode he notices things other detectives miss. He uses his nose as well as his eyes, often literally sniffing out clues. He is wildly eccentric, highly intelligent, heavily tattooed, and slightly Asperger-ish. Did I mention he is a former drug addict? I am horrified by drug addiction but Sherlock’s medical history figures heavily into ongoing plots and adds depth to his character.”
And Tamara Ellis Smith’s choice detective is a variation on Sherlock, none other than muppet detective, Sherlock Hemlock, “Egad!”
Mylisa Larsen’s pet detective “will work for cheeseburgers”: top Dog J.J. Tully, from The Trouble with Chickens by Doreen Cronin, “whose voice is pitch perfect dog noir and always has me in stitches.”
For Laurie Thompson, it’s duo Leroy “Encyclopedia” Brown and Sally Kimball, “One of my favorite series when I was a young reader was Encyclopedia Brown. Wikipedia tells me there are 29 books in the series, but I must have read them all multiple times because it feels like I’ve read at least a hundred. I loved everything about those books: that Leroy solves the cases his police chief father can’t, that he goes into business with his skills (’25 cents per day, plus expenses – No case too small.’), and that the bully Bugs Meany usually gets his due. Of course, I especially loved it when Leroy’s friend Sally solved the cases. Girls can be smart, too!”
Megan Morrison applauds Veronica Mars: “… because of her bravery, her smarts, and above all, her willingness to stand up for herself even when she’s the only one on her side. I like that her trusty pitbull is named Backup. I like that her greatest weapon is her zoom lens (OK, and a stun gun). I like that she has a great relationship with her dad, and that she takes care of him as much as he takes care of her. In the first season of the show, the shaming and bullying that she endures at her high school can be difficult to watch, but it’s a scenario that’s unfortunately all too real for too many girls. It’s both grueling and satisfying to see Veronica fight her way through it to the end, solving the mysteries in her sinister town with guts, intelligence, and a delightfully, viciously snarky sense of humor.”
Rebecca van Slyke is obsessed with Monk, played by Tony Shalhoub, “He’s SO painfully OCD (Or is that CDO, where the letters are in alphabetical order like they SHOULD be?), and yet he always manages to overcome it just enough to solve the case.”
Kevan Atteberry admires Carl Hiaasen’s reluctant private detective, Mick Stranahan: “Mick lives on an island in a bay on the Florida coast owned by a Mexican novelist. He is a ‘retired’ investigator for the Florida State Attorney’s office. He’s been married a half dozen times and has given up on any future relationships. Yet he gets dragged into solving murders and other crimes by insistent and beautiful women who have penchant for the kind of street dog Mick is. On perhaps a more respectable note, there always seems to be an environmental issue threatening the Everglades or other parts of the Florida wilderness or a particular species of animal. Mick loves his state and everything natural about it. He shuns civilization but keeps getting dragged back into it despite being retired. He lives (or tries to) a life of nonchalance and insouciance. His acerbic wit and disdain for the rest of civilization is both questionable and hilarious.”
“Can we pretend that a private investigator is the same as detective?” asks Donna Bowman Bratton, “If so, my fave is Magnum P.I. Because, hubba, hubba!”
For Jennifer Chambliss Bertman, fictional sleuth Nancy Drew best fits the bill: “I’ve been a sucker for a good detective story since I was a kid, so it’s hard for me to pick favorites here. But I’m going to have to go with Nancy Drew. Smart, capable, clever, diplomatic, a good friend, compassionate . . . I devoured Nancy Drew mysteries as a kid, and I love re-reading them today.”
Adam Shaughnessy ponders, “Favorite detective? This is a writing blog, so I’m trying to resist the urge to answer, ‘Shawn Spencer, from Psych, because I am a fan of delicious flavor.’ That’s not very literary. Unless they’ve done novelized adaptations of Psych? Is that a thing? That might be a thing. Still, I should probably pick a character that wasn’t a television character first. Got it! Dirk Gently, from Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. Hysterical! Hmm. Clearly, the criteria by which I measure a detective’s worth is humor… that might prove problematic if I ever need to hire one.”
Who’s Janet Fox’s favorite detective? “Hercule Poirot” created by mystery writer extraordinaire, Agatha Christie: “I love his mustache. Seriously, I love his whole ‘French’ approach – so debonaire and continental, yet clever.”
Christy Lenzi says, “My favorite detective is Phryne Fisher, from the novels by Kerry Greenwood and I absolutely LOVE the TV show about her called ‘Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries’! Phryne is a clever, independent, and independently-minded woman living in Melbourne, Australia in the late 1920s who solves all sorts of crimes with pizzazz and a little sass. Not only does she glide uninvited onto bloody, dirty crime scenes in an elegant white pantsuit, fur, and white gloves, she can fly a plane and drives her own car. My kind of gal.”
As a girl, Christine Hayes gobbled up the adventures of Trixie Belden: “I would haunt the library trying to get my hands on every book in the series. She was spunky and smart and down-to-earth, but she had rich friends so she could do cool stuff. And she rode horses! And solved crimes! Even back then I think I knew the books were pretty dated, but I didn’t care. Many years later, thanks to ebay and used bookstores, I eventually collected the whole set for my very own. Jeepers!”
For Penny Parker Klostermann it’s none other than Peter Seller’s as clueless Inspector Jacques Clouseau for his “quirky ineptness.”
I’m also a fan of clumsy Inspector Clouseau. One of the most hilarious scenes occurs in the hotel when he asks the German hotel manager “Does your dog bite?” When the man answers no, and Clousseau tries to pet the dog, it attacks his glove. Clouseau shocklingly says, “I thought you said your dog does not bite,” and the man replies “that is not my dog.” (Becca doesn’t bite– feel free to pet her).
I have a few other favorites: I absolutely love Emerson Cod, sardonically witty private investigator and closet knitter, played by Chi McBride, in Pushing Daisies. Cod teams up with Ned the pie-maker, who can raise the dead (but only for 60 seconds), to solve murders. Cod even pens his own pop-up book, Lil’ Gumshoe, to reunite with the daughter whom he hasn’t seen in seven years.
Like Susan, I’m also a huge fan of Columbo, played with disheveled finesse by Peter Falk, and its undertones of class warfare. This seemingly clueless and unsophisticated blue-collar guy captures the rich and famous.
And finally, since she has southern charm, like Susan’s book, I’d be remiss without including Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson, who upends her suspects (and colleagues) with politeness, “Thank you so much,” in The
So thank you so much for joining us on Emu’s Debuts! Is it elementary, or a little more mysterious? Who’s your favorite detective? Please leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of Footer Davis
Might Be Probably Is Crazy!! Susan is giving away THREE copies, so be sure to enter!
You can also buy your own copy of Footer Davis here:
Maria writes fiction and nonfiction picture books while dog Becca snores at her feet. This is what they do when they’re not writing (or snoring). Her debut picture book, Penny & Jelly: The School Show, illustrated by Thyra Heder will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in July 2015, with a second Penny & Jelly book to follow in Spring 2016. Maria has both fiction and nonfiction picture books forthcoming from Roaring Brook Press, Aladdin Books and Boyds Mills Press. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette of Erin Murphy Literary. To learn more, please visit her website: mariagianferrari.com, or visit Maria at Facebook.
Photos of Maria & Becca by Monogram Arts Photo.